As more and more American Christians are facing persecution, some Christians dismiss it. “Well, it isn’t as bad as what happened to the Coptic Christians in Egypt,” they might say. Or “they didn’t lose their head” is another common dismissal.
In the United States of America, Christians are losing their jobs because of their faith. They are being hounded out of academic institutions and the entertainment industry. They are being harassed and targeted by gay rights groups. ISIS takes a person’s life, but in America the secular left destroys a person’s life. Both ISIS and the secular left in America, from the gay rights movement to the academy, take a “convert or be destroyed” approach. The dividing line is the sword.
Unfortunately, too many Christians want to appease the world and accommodate it, so they turn a blind eye. Yes, the florist may have lost her business, but she did not lose her life — so no big deal? It is. Persecution comes in degrees and if you have never experienced persecution, you probably are not a Christian. It may have been the insulted mocking. It may have been the denial of a job or being passed over for a promotion. It may be the denial of entry into an academic program.
But we should not dismiss it happening because your are still alive.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:20-23 (ESV)
The apostle John was sent into exile several times. He was beaten by authorities. He was jailed. But Peter lost his life, crucified upside down. The tendency of too many Christians in America today is to dismiss John’s persecution because he did not wind up like Peter, when both are wrong.
The other aspect of this, however, is our personal dismissal of our own suffering. Often we decide that our suffering is not as bad as someone else’s so we ignore it. We spend our time in prayer for the friend who is suffering or the person we heard about and fail to pray for ourselves or we pray for ourselves and feel guilty for doing so.
God sets up some things in the world to come about only through prayer. Sometimes he wants you to pray for your suffering. But often we just refuse to pray, dismissing our own suffering as trivial. We deny God’s assistance and refuse to hand over our problems to him thinking he has other suffering to worry about. Denying our own suffering, even when it is small, denies God the ability to comfort us. It is not selfishness to surrender all our burdens to the Lord. It is selfishness to assume God should not be bothered when he has told us to let him carry our burdens.
Just as Christians should not dismiss the suffering of others because it is not of a tragic degree, we should not dismiss our own suffering. Christianity is a religion of persecution and suffering, but we have a Creator who suffered on a cross for us who now will carry those burdens for us if we just ask.